Black women in their first year at Washington, D.C.’s American University say they have been targeted for racist, anti-woman attacks by white men on campus.
BuzzFeed News said Saturday that the women have been pelted with rotten bananas as a racist taunt and their property has been vandalized.
Sophomore Ma’at Sargeant — president of AU’s Black Student Alliance — told BuzzFeed that one of the women was alone in her dorm room on Sep. 8 when a group of white men forced open the door and threw a rotten banana at her.
A freshman named Neah Gray — who lives on the same dorm floor as the woman who was attacked in her room — told the Washington Post that she has found bananas outside her door and crude drawings of male genitalia on the whiteboard hanging outside her room.
“I wouldn’t let people drive me out, but it’s kind of sad that this kind of thing still happens,” Gray said to the Post.
The American U Black Student Union issued a statement on Friday that said, in part, “As an organization it has come to our attention that in recent weeks, young black women have been the victims of acts of hate.”
The statement pointed to a series of incidents last academic year in which the word “ni**er” was written on black students’ dorm room doors, students on the anonymous social medium Yik Yak called for a “slave auction” of black students on campus and demanded that they “Go back to Africa.”
“The feeling that black students carry of being unrepresented, unprotected and unappreciated can no longer be the status quo,” the statement said. The American University administration and students need to step up to the cause. The cause of insuring that racially charged acts of hate like these will no longer be handled with impunity. Then, and only then, will American University be able to say this educational institution prides itself on “Diversity and Inclusion.”
Activists opposed to the attacks have started a campaign to shed light on the incidents, including signs on campus that read: “#TheRealAU may include having rotten bananas thrown at you.” However, school administrators ordered that the signs be taken down.
University police are reportedly conducting an investigation and the administration issued a statement saying that they are aware of the issue and do not condone the behavior.
“Actions can and do have impact beyond their intent and that was the case here,” the statement said. “The University condemns discrimination and discriminatory harassment and all violations are handled through the Student Conduct process.”
Jada Bell — the Black Student Alliance’s outreach coordinator — told BuzzFeed, “Black women are under threat on campus — they are being used as target practice.”
“We’re literally being attacked and assaulted on campus, and there’s nothing being done about it by the administration,” she said.
Bell said she’s “sick and tired of having to do this fight.”
“I called my grandma up, and she said she went through the same thing, 40, 50-plus years ago,” Bell said. “We shouldn’t have to go through these kind of things in 2016.”